A paradigm that needs breaking

There are five different types of people specifically given by God to the Church as gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. And these were given for a specific purpose – for the equipping of the saints, God’s holy ones, for the work of the ministry. In other words, the role of these 5 types of people is not to do the ministry, but to train those of the church to carry out the ministry of the church.

What is the work of the ministry? A good illustration would be that from Acts 6. There arose a dispute about needs of different groups within the church being met. Instead of trying to do it themselves, the apostles told the church to pick seven men from themselves who would carry out the work of the ministry. These were the first deacons, which means “those who minister.” The apostles would continue with their job of prayer and ministry of the word which means proclaiming it to the crowds and studying it. So, it was people from the body who were equipped to carry out the work of the ministry, not those who were to be doing the equipping.

The common paradigm in the modern church in America, though, is that the people expect the pastor to be the one to do the work of the ministry. Comments such as “That’s why we hired him/her” have unfortunately been offered numerous times.  It’s almost as if the attitude is “We pay him/her to do it so we don’t have to because we don’t want to do it.”

I believe there have been different reasons from both sides that have caused this common paradigm. There has been the consumerist attitude of those of the church, but there have also been wrong attitudes by pastors such as feeling like s/he has to do it all to be accepted or having a “superiority” complex that no one is capable of ministering to someone like s/he is so that even if a member of the body does minister to someone, that pastor feels the need to also minister on top of it.

What has the result been? Severely stunted growth in both quantity and quality of the church. Pastors are not freed up to carry out their specific duty placed on a pastor by direct revelation from God because they are too busy trying to do the work of the ministry that those who make up the body should be doing. Those who make up the church do not grow because they just sit back and either expect the pastor to do it or just sit back because even if they did participate in the work of the ministry like ministering to the needs of a sick person, the pastor would just come along and do it as well.  So if the pastor feels the need to do it as well, the attitude of the person can very easily become, “Why should I bother; the pastor will just do if after me.”

I’m coming to grips with the realization that this ever-present paradigm has done great damage to those of the two youngest adult generations, particularly the Millennials. Why do I say that? I say it because those individuals want to be active, to be trusted, to not be treated like someone like a pastor has to come behind them and do the work they have just done. They want to be equipped and then released and empowered to carry out the ministry without having to look over their shoulder expecting to see a pastor come up behind them and just do again what they’ve already done. If that happens, they ask themselves, “Why am I doing it if you’re just going to come along and do it again?” And at that point, they stop and move on.

Want to know why many of those generations don’t value or prioritize being an active part of a church? Because they aren’t valued in what they do if someone is just going to come along and do it again after them. So they stop and place their priorities elsewhere.

If this paradigm isn’t replaced with the biblical one, then I do not see good results.


Not afraid of contradictions

Currently, I am reading a book book by Graham Cooke titled, “A Divine Confrontation.”  I’m currently in a section where Graham is talking about worship.  He makes some pretty poignant comments that bear further consideration.  For example, he writes, “Most Sunday services are boringly familiar.”  He also wrote, “Stereotypical services produce stereotypical believers.  God is endlessly creative.  His nature is a challenge to any one-dimensional state.  The God who makes every snowflake different, who created millions of varieties of species, who controls climatic atmospheres and huge bodies in space, cannot be expressed through a stereotype.”  Earlier he writes, “As humans, we like structure, organization, form, and substance.”  This is quite different to how God operates.

The combination of all this got me to thinking about something else.  That common stereotypical approach to worship with that desire to have structure, organization, form, and substance also lends to a desire for uniformity, for things to fit in a nice and neat package, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

This can also be the common approach toward Scripture, especially those who strenuously advocate that there must be absolute harmony in it, meaning that there can be no contradiction present.  And many of those who hold to this approach and view of Scripture go to great lengths to explain away those places where contradictions are present.  For example, in his first letter to Timothy, Paul instructs Timothy that he wants the women in the church at Ephesus to learn in silence while he instructs the women in the church in Corinth how to properly pray and prophesy.  Those who want no contradiction present (for they believe that to have contradictions present makes it impossible for Scripture to be God-breathed) start going into qualifiers of the passages to explain away any contradictions and once again achieve seamless harmony and full agreement.

What about the decree of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) where it was decreed that it was necessary for Gentile believers (“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater BURDEN (read “requirement”) than these NECESSARY things: to abstain from things that have been sacrificed to idols and to blood and things strangled and fornification.”) and later Paul’s teaching to the Corinthian believers about when it was permissible to actually eat meat sacrificed to idols, an instruction that came after the Jerusalem council decree, and in direct contradiction to that decree?

For a long time, I have struggled with how to describe my approach to Scripture until I came across what Graham wrote.  I do not fear contradiction in Scripture.  I do not fear tension in Scripture.  I do not fear one set of instructions for believers in one location and an opposite set of instructions given to believers in another location.  I don’t believe that the presence of contradictions in this way or tension disqualifies Scripture from being God-breathed.  I actually believe their presence speaks to the creative nature of God, creative in how He addresses similar issues but in different locations and situations.

I have often wondered if the common and typical approach to what it means for Scripture to be God-breathed and inerrant has created a cookie-cutter approach to what if means to be a follower of Christ and a person of faith (making the Bible out to be a policy book full of rules, regulations, and guidelines) and has actually elevated the written word to the status of an idol, being worshiped in some way, similar to the religious teachers and leaders of Jesus’ day.  I often hear people say, “The Bible says…” in response to some situation, often as justification for some action.  What I don’t hear much is “I wonder what God wants in this situation?” in response.  What that says to me is that the Bible has been elevated to divine status, maybe as the 4th member of the Godhead.

And I won’t go there.

God is Present-Future by Graham Cooke

Why does God give us prophetic words that can be so far into the future, we often feel that we cannot connect with them now? He loves us to have a horizon in our life; something to aim for and head toward in our relationship with Him.

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not your calamity, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). These plans will connect us with our destiny, identity, and calling.

The principle of a future directive word is: The Father puts words into our long-term future because He wants to explore them in the Spirit and bring them into our present relationship with Him.

There are two ways that we walk in the natural. Firstly, we look at the ground around our feet so that we do not stumble or step into something nasty. Secondly, we look ahead at where we are going. Our horizon may be limited, but we look for landmarks of note to guide us.

What is true in the natural is also true in the Spirit. We look at where we are now in our fellowship with the Father, and we look ahead to where He is taking us in relationship. It is normal for us to have two perceptions on life; we live today and plan for the future. People who pay conscious attention to the interplay between present and future usually lead successful, productive lives. Those who only live for the moment seldom fulfill their potential and usually live with regret that they had not done enough with their life.

Present–future is also a way of thinking. It is a mentality that all fruitful people develop. We always make decisions now with the future in mind. We do not want to just move from crisis to crisis. We do not want our future to be a hostage of decisions we make in the present.

This is why meditation and reflection are so vital for us in life. The capacity to pause and calmly think about things (Selah) is an important part of our fellowship with the Holy Spirit, who is a genius at doing life!

If we really want to be transformed across the whole of our life in fellowship with the Lord, then we must be renewed in how we think (Romans 12:2). “As a man thinks in his heart so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

What we think about God is the most important thing in life. Too many Christians are trying to have faith without being settled in their hearts about who God is for them and what He is really, really like in Himself. They have little chance of becoming men or women after God’s heart because their own hearts are not fixed. When our hearts are unsure, our heads are double-minded.

Our testimony is always concerned not just with what Jesus has done (that’s our history), but primarily with Who He is for us now. What are we discovering presently about God’s nature? What are we exploring about the future in Him? Our present fellowship provides future assurances about our walk with Him. He who began a good work in us will perfect it in Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Paul drew lots of confidence from his present–future way of relating to the Lord.

If what we think about God is most vital, then surely what He thinks about us is just as important. The Father’s loving disposition toward us is absolutely essential to our wellbeing, both in the natural and in the Spirit. This revelatory knowledge when combined with actual physical, emotional, mental and spiritual encounters and experiences of God’s nature becomes to us the very evidence of the incarnate Gospel. We are living proof of Good News!

Our thinking needs adjusting on two levels. Firstly, regarding our ongoing thoughts, ideas and reasoning about ourselves. Our innermost, heartfelt, emotional perceptions of ourselves must fit the way that God knows us and sees us in Christ.

Secondly, it is absolutely essential that we come to the place of understanding, agreeing with and consciously aligning ourselves with God’s view of us both in the present and with the future. It is much more than an agreed perception; it’s the basis of an upgraded relationship!

We see this, most particularly in God’s fellowship and relationship with Abraham. In Genesis 18:17-19, we see the Lord visiting Abraham and Sarah. He tells them they will have a son by the next year and Sarah has a fit of the giggles inside the tent. As the Lord is leaving after lunch, He makes this statement about Abraham to the two angels who are traveling with Him: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him shall all the nations of the earth will be blessed?”

Firstly, “Shall I hide” really means: I choose to include Abraham. I will open something up to Abraham. I will hear his thoughts. God is taking Abraham into His confidence. This represents an upgrade in their relationship.

Secondly, the most powerful word in this statement is the word “since.” God begins a dialogue, which obviously originated in Heaven concerning Abraham and his destiny. “I will include Abraham in what I am doing next…since…(i.e. for the reason that) Abraham will become a great and mighty nation.”

It was a done deal in the heart of the Lord. He wanted to connect Abraham’s present with his future. The Lord is going to include Abraham in what He is doing now because of what He sees Abraham will become in the future. He lives in the gap between our present and our future, relating to us easily in both contexts. Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25), stands in the gap between our present identity and our future destiny.

God speaks to us prophetically about our future and then relates to us in the present through our destiny. God begins to develop us from the place of our future toward where we are in the present. We partner with the Holy Spirit by cooperating in the present with our future in mind. In this way between our fellowship/relationship we always connect with our present–future.

–An excerpt from Prophetic Wisdom

exploring_prophecy_cropProphetic Wisdom is Graham’s most advanced book on the prophetic, detailing exactly how to take what you know about prophecy and applying it to your daily life. For the month of January Prophetic Wisdom is available as part of the Exploring the Prophetic Combo which also includes the CD teaching Making a Prophetic Impact. The Exploring the Prophetic Combo is perfect if you are ready to dig deeper in the prophetic and passionately explore all the treasure there is to unearth within.